2011-11-04 / Top Stories

Four Sparrow Mall Plan Withdrawn

By Howard Schwach

Google map shows the area where the new shopping mall was slated to be built. Google map shows the area where the new shopping mall was slated to be built. The city’s plan to build a retail shopping plaza on protected wetlands in Mill Basin, right across the bridge from Rockaway’s west end, has died a quiet death.

The Bloomberg administration has quietly withdrawn its plan, which would have allowed Bruce Rattner to develop 15 acres of public parkland into a mall adjacent to the Toys “R” Us mall on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.

In early September, the city’s Economic Development Agency’s website changed from a description and map of the site to a terse statement that, “This project has been withdrawn.” The plan was to transform a 15-acre swath of land near Four Sparrow Marsh in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, into a car dealership and retail center. The land lies just south of the present Toys “R” Us store and just north of the Belt Parkway interchange. It is also just north of the Four Sparrow Marsh, the habitat for many species of birds, some of them on the protected species list, environmentalists said. Because of the proximity of the marsh, the plan had drawn criticism from local conservation groups. While members of that area’s community board warmed to the idea of a new retail center, some conservation groups were worried about the environmental impact of the proposed project on Four Sparrow Marsh.

“We have great concerns,” Glenn Phillips, the executive director of New York City Audubon, a conservation group, told Wall Street Journal reporters. New York City Audubon has pushed to protect the marsh and its surrounding area since the late 1980s.

Four Sparrow Marsh is a 67-acre nature preserve and the nesting site of several threatened species of birds, like the seaside sparrow. The project could hurt the amount and quality of water in the basin, said New York City Audubon’s Phillips. It could also disrupt the nesting of several species of birds, he said.

The plan “does try to buffer the development site from the natural area. However, the buffers are pretty small and we think they are inadequate,” he said.

Under the proposed plan, Four Sparrow Marsh would also have become officially mapped parkland overseen by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. It would remain off limits to the public as a nature preserve.

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